The last time I worked on my trail, in early May, it was way too snow covered for me to get much done. This time I was hoping to finally get through all of the major patch of blowdowns that were littering the path between the hut and the Dry River Cutoff. I also wanted to visit Lakes of the Clouds Hut, climb Mt Monroe, and hike the portion of the Crawford Path that parallels the Mt Monroe loop. I hadn't been to either Lakes of the Clouds or Mt Monroe since 2005 with Muffin, and I never been on that one section of the Crawford Path, which was supposed to be a mecca for mountain wildflowers. I suppose I overestimated my endurance for that day, but I hadn't counted on the high winds above treeline making travel so slow.
Anyway, I parked at the Highland Center and took the AMC shuttle to the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trailhead. I'm always surprised at just how long the ride is on the base road between Rt 302 and the trailhead. The road (and its many bumps) seems to go on forever. My tools were already at Mizpah Springs Hut, so at least I wasn't carrying them, but I did have my sleeping bag and extra overnight gear.
The Ammonoosuc Ravine trail between the spur path to/from the Cog Railway base station and Gem Pool was a real surprise. I hadn't realized how badly the ravine had fared from Tropical Storm Irene. The river had massively overflowed its banks, scattering whole trees and debris like toothpicks along the higher ground. The trail itself was also much eroded, but the swath directly along the river was definitely the worst.
Gem Pool, however, was untouched and as green and inviting as ever. Tthe extremely steep section of the trail above Gem Pool was also in good shape, As always, I took the spur path to see the twin falls, which plummet over a hundred feet before disappearing into a series of hidden falls and cascades below. I was starting to get tired, but I didn't really feel rushed since it was still mid-morning and I had until 6 PM before supper was served at Mizpah.
Higher up, the pitch eased up a bit as the trail began its ascents along and across the open ledges and wide cascades of the upper part of the ravine. The ledges were a bit slippery, but not a real issue. The day was warm and sunny and the scenery was spectacular, especially when I got my first glimpse of the world above treeline. The steepness of the terrain hid all but the very top of the towers on the summit of Mt Washington, making the distance seem deceptively close.
Finally, after endless twists, turns, and their intervening ascents, Lakes of the Clouds Hut came into view. I was glad to see it since I was getting even more tired by this time and was ready for a good rest before continuing on. I was also relieved as I figured that I had just completed the hard uphill part, and that the rest of the way would be fairly easy going. The only real uphill hiking that I had left was the climb to Mt Monroe, and that wasn't really all that far. But as I said earlier, I hadn't counted on the high winds above treeline making travel so slow.
In the hut I bought a tee-shirt and enjoyed a snack while getting reacquainted with the hut's layout.